Atlanta Film Festival Review: Hearts Beat Loud

Score: B+

Director: Brett Haley

Cast: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Making both movies and music can be a strenuous process, but it's often the projects that feature heartbreak and devastation get the most acclaim. But there's something to be said for the pleasure that pop music and romantic comedies can bring you. Hearts Beat Loud is director Brett Haley's best effort to date, and it's the feel-good movie of the year.

Aside from Irish director John Carney – whose projects include Once, Begin Again and Sing Street – few directors have devoted their recent films to the lives of musicians. (And when they have, they haven't been successful.) While Hearts Beat Loud doesn't quite ascend to those heights, this is a true delight from beginning to end. Nick Offerman, in a role that shows both a real depth and softer side, plays Frank. His record store is on the verge of closing, and his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is on the verge of moving across the country for medical school. It's the last few weeks before summer ends, but a late-night jam session with Sam has given him a spark.

The song they create – the track that gives the film its title – sets off a new course for everyone, though it's not a straight rise to the top. Even though the film recreates one of the best scenes from That Thing You Do! in a very 2018 way, the ambitions of the film and the success of the band are much smaller.

While the film checks a lot of familiar boxes, including love interests for Sam (Sasha Lane) and Frank (Toni Collette), this is one of those films that does it so well it doesn't matter. And when Sam and Frank are jamming together, the movie soars. Really, the only thing that doesn't work is the character of Sam's mother. Played by Blythe Danner, she's done radiant work elsewhere, including in Haley's own I'll See You in My Dreams. But as the grandmother slowly losing her mind to Alzheimer's, this subplot doesn't give her much to do and doesn't add much to the story. To keep it in, it needed to have a bigger impact.

But you've got Ted Danson as a wisdom-dispensing bartender, Toni Collette singing Chairlift at a karaoke bar, and intimate conversations about Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. Of course I was going to love this movie.

Hearts Beat Loud is a special film, one that anyone who's ever created music will appreciate, and anyone who's found themselves at a crossroads will understand.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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